Sunday, March 29, 2009

Masquerade

I was just reading an article on The Christian Post and realized that I was getting quite irritated. Here's the reason why: I don't like it when snobbery masquerades as concern. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree with me on that point. If you're going to be concerned, make sure you're not simply contriving a concern; it comes across as disingenuous.

Here is an example of what I mean.

"And as Jesus had done, many are going out and reaching to those labeled by society as the worst of sinners."

The trite sentimentalism of such a comment blows me away. First of all, which society are we talking about in this over-generalization? The religious society? Or the secular society? If we say the 'religious' society is labeling the unsaved as the 'worst of sinners' then we can be sure that the religious society is in serious need of a theological overhaul. At what point did the religious society suddenly forget the fact that they are people saved by the same grace of Christ that these 'worst of sinners' needs? At what point were, and are the 'religious' societies not themselves the 'worst of sinners'? I get the impression when I read Scripture that Jesus had a few things against the religious societies of His day (Pharisees, Saducees, etc.). St. Paul remarked that he was the chief of sinners, the foremost sinner of all (1 Tim. 1:15, 16)! So if the two greatest religious figures in all Christendom recognized the rotten sinfulness of the religious, who are these societal rejects discluded from the religious camp? And how are the religious somehow sub-par in the 'sin' department?

On the other hand, if we say the 'secular' society is labeling some the 'worst of sinners', well that would just be strange, since secularism doesn't make room for religious concepts such as sin. Well, perhaps with the exception of archery. But I'm pretty sure that's not why missionaries are going out sharing the gospel: to save archers from a bad shot!

Aside from evaluating the superficiality of the comment I quoted above, let's dig a little deeper. What exactly did Christ do with the people around Him? Did He label people 'sinners'? He certainly referred to them as sinners -- He referred to all of us as sinners! There were no eschelons amongst sinners. So unless you've got your head twisted in Roman Catholic notions of a hierarchy of sins, you probably recognise that Christ simply reached out to people around Him, and loved them. The 'sin' wasn't the focus, but His love was. Or, to put it another way: it was more important to Christ to give Himself to others than to label their status apart from Him.

And because Christ's focus was to love, we are totally off-base the instant we point our finger at someone else and label them the 'worst of sinners'. Christ's perspective didn't come with a full-index jab; it came with a genuine love for people. Not to show them how wretched they are, but to show them how welcome and worthwhile they are. So, if you take the perspective of the quote in the article I've linked, then from where I sit, you've not taken Christ's perspective. Because when it comes down to it, we're all part of the same human race; we're all 'the worst of sinners' together. The Fall wasn't worse for some than others. So, we all need the same thing just as much as the next person: love and forgiveness.
As unimportant as it might cause the sanctimonious to feel, we're indistinct. That is, we're not worst, not best; we're just the same. God shows no partiality (Deut. 10:17).

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

"So if the two greatest religious figures in all Christendom recognized the rotten sinfulness of the religious, who are these societal rejects discluded from the religious camp?"

Perhaps they are the ones we are afraid of?
Usually, the people we reject are the ones we are afraid of.
J

Craig said...

I think that there is a certain type of confusion that happens when a person feels under pressure and is attempting to write for an audience.

Probably if the author of this article was writing personal, introspective poems never intended to be read by anyone, a sentence like that would never appear. Some of us write things that are incomprehensible in other ways in that type of a situation but there is always even more lost when a person spins their head in circles in an attempt to be understood.
Sometimes, I wish to give up on formality and sanity in communication. The crazy stuff that comes from the heart is so much better than writing for an audience.

Anonymous said...

Good thoughts, Craig.
I tend to agree with you that from the heart is better. I'm not much of a formal writer and perhaps not much of a debater.
J

Christopher said...

"The crazy stuff that comes from the heart is so much better than writing for an audience."

That's true, Craig, but when you're writing for an audience -- as was intended in this case -- you should definitely do your best to line up your intentions with words that accurately communicate them, yes?

Anonymous said...

It's an interesting topic: "snobbery masquerading as concern."
When people are truly concerned, there is usually a corresponding action that goes along with that concern.
It's one thing to "talk" concern; it's another thing to "live" concern.
"Concern" like "love" is a verb, not just a noun/subject.
I have seen looks that masquerade as concern, and sometimes a question or comment.
I'm slightly confused: If someone is going about, as Jesus did, reaching to those labelled (there's that word) by society as the worst of sinners, doesn't that sound like concern?
It's the labelling that doesn't sound like conern to me. I like the "going" and "reaching" part. People don't usually do that if they aren't concerned.
I guess this is a carry-over of my thoughts on labelling from my post under "Poking at Atheism".
And that's enough for one night. My thoughts tend to deteriorate in any intelligent-sounding form later at night.
Thank you for the thought-provoking comments.
Good challenges. Lots to chew on.
(As long as chewing isn't as far as it gets.)
Blessings all around,
J

Christopher said...

"I'm slightly confused: If someone is going about, as Jesus did, reaching to those labelled (there's that word) by society as the worst of sinners, doesn't that sound like concern?
It's the labelling that doesn't sound like conern to me. I like the "going" and "reaching" part. People don't usually do that if they aren't concerned."


You're right to note that 'going' and 'reaching' can connote concern. However, we'd be remiss to read the quote with the convenient ommission of "worst of sinners" since it forms the context for the notion of 'going' and 'reaching'. So saying, whoever is concerned is 'going' and 'reaching' to someone, and in this case it is "the worst of sinners". I can't read the quote any other way since it was not written in another way, even if that's inconvenient to me, and even if I'd like to recast the comment so it comes across less specious and superficial.

My issue is that we're not invited by Christ to prescribe a hierarchy to sin. That is, we're not given a place to say one person is a better/worse sinner than another. Think of the man who beat his hands against his chest and prayed, "thank God I'm not like them"; and the tax collector who articulated his gratitude for God's grace. When we suggest certain people are worse sinners than others, we forget ourselves: we are essentially noting that we're 'not like them'.

Personally, I can't abide by that. And I'm fairly certain that Christ's point in the parable I noted is that we're not supposed to abide by those kinds of notions.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
I understand, I think, what you are zooming in on.
Hmm ...
Sin is sin. It's what I've always been taught and what i believe, but we are all sinners.
We restrict some from serving in certain ways because of the particular type of sin they were involved in, but that is more a matter of protecting the flock physically, emotionally ...
It's easier to reach out to a liar than it is to a rapist, in my mind, and perhaps that is what this is pointing out ... that those whom society deemed "the worst of sinners" were being ministered to.
I think it takes a special calling and a degree of love that I may not have to reach out to people no matter what sin they have committed.
I would like to think otherwise, but ... I might not be completely honest.
So, for people to be reaching out to "the worst of sinners" (rapists, murderers, thieves ...) would definitely show a degree of Christian charity that is uncommon.
I hope I've understood this right, but you can continue to pound it into my wee brain if I haven't.
J